Skip to Content

Equation of a woman in voluntary military service with a man in conscript service (TAS 112/2021, issued on 8 March 2021)

A customer contacted the Ombudsman for Equality because she had been refused the labour market subsidy after completing the voluntary military service for women. The customer intended to appeal to the Social Security Appeal Board to change Kela’s decision.

The customer had been accepted as a student during her 11-month military service and registered as absent for the academic year at the start of the autumn semester. The customer was unemployed for a time after the end of her military service. She was refused the labour market subsidy because, according to the labour market policy statement issued by the TE Office, the military service had been voluntary for the customer, so she did not have a valid reason to postpone the start of her studies in the autumn. 

During the processing of the matter, the customer had sought to emphasise that she was already liable for military service when she was accepted as a student. She had passed the 45-day boundary before which women can leave the service. She had approximately four months of service left when her studies would have begun, so she could not start school without deserting.   

If a person has withdrawn from the labour market for more than six months without an acceptable reason, they will not be granted an unemployment allowance before they once again meet the work requirement. Acceptable reasons for withdrawing from the labour market include, for example, conscription and non-military service or other comparable reasons.  

The Ombudsman for Equality stated that he is unable to comment on specific appeals. In his statement, the Ombudsman instead assesses whether men liable for military service and women entering voluntary military service can be compared to each other in view of the Act on Equality between Women and Men, especially after 45 days have elapsed from the start of the woman’s military service. 

According to the Act on women's voluntary military service (Laki naisten vapaaehtoisesta asepalveluksesta), a woman who gives notice within 45 days of the start of her service that she is discontinuing her service must be discharged immediately. After this period, women are equivalent in all respects to conscripts, both during and after their service. If a woman thus refuses to continue serving after the aforementioned time limit, she will have to complete her service as non-military service. If she refuses non-military service, she can be sentenced to imprisonment or monitoring. 

In his previous statements, the Ombudsman for Equality has taken the view that, even though the fact that conscription only applies to men does not constitute gender-based discrimination as referred to in the Act on Equality between Women and Men, detrimental practices related to conscript service can be evaluated as discrimination as referred to in the Act. Conscription should not lead to a situation in which conscription causes men to be treated less favourably than women in other contexts without an acceptable reason. Correspondingly, women in voluntary military service should be treated the same way when their status is equivalent to that of men. Otherwise, the woman would be discriminated against based on her gender.